Sooner, More, or No Children? Timing and Level of Childbearing among Orphans in France

Anne Solaz , Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)
Eva Beaujouan, University of Vienna (Wittgenstein Centre)

Death of a parent in childhood has become rare but remains an important life-course event. It has short- and long-term repercussions for the child. Beyond psychological and developmental consequences, widely investigated, becoming an orphan also seems of consequence for own family construction and future fertility. In this paper, we aim to describe the link between parental death during childhood and later fertility behavior among women and men. The young adult who faces the psychological and health outcomes associated to parental loss may retreat from parenthood, notably because of specific anxieties and psychological distress. Conversely, forming a new family and having many children may be a way to compensate too early loss of a parent in childhood. We use a very large national French dataset, the 2011 Family Survey (INSEE-INED), and focus particularly on the 1946-66 birth cohorts (N=118316), last generations for which we observe the entire fertility history, among which 11417 lost at least one parent during childhood. We perform linear and Poisson regressions on both timing and level fertility indicators. Results show that orphans have larger offspring size than non-orphans, mainly explained by their individual characteristics for men. We find a strong polarization of fertility behaviors: while orphans are more likely to be childless, particularly men (retreat from parenthood assumption), those who become parent begin childbearing earlier and have more children in case of the death of the parent of the same sex as the respondent, following the compensation assumption.

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 Presented in Session 123. The Relationships between Fertility and Mortality